Why there are no Apostles in the Church Today

 

Dave Merck

 


 

The Apostolic Church lasted from approximately 30 to 100 A.D., and ended with the death of the Apostle John...

...At this point we are pausing awhile in order to focus upon the most important transition point in the history of the church...that which falls between the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Periods –– and the change that took place.

I. The essence of the change.

What is it that changed at this point in the history of the church? The answer is clearly indicated in the names of the two great periods of Church History. With the death of the last of the twelve Apostles around 100 A.D. (who evidently was John), the Church of Christ ceased having living Apostles in her midst. Now on what basis do I say this? Who were these Apostles in the first place? Why do we not have Apostles today? Why should we not look for them? In answering these questions, we must first of all make:

A). A crucial distinction regarding the identity of Apostles. Before we can draw a conclusion regarding the absence of Apostles, we must first of all know who they were. This is not as simple a task as it might appear. The word "apostle"means "messenger"or "delegate". It is used in different ways in the New Testament, and there is a certain fluidity about the term.

However, for our purposes, it is necessary to distinguish between what Pastor Waldron has called capital "A" Apostles and little "a" apostles. Let us first of all consider:

1. Capital "A" Apostles.

a. The clearest example of these are the twelve Apostles initially appointed by Christ during His earthly ministry. These Apostles all possessed three characteristics which qualified them to be capital "A" Apostles:

(1) Read Acts 1:21-22; 10:39-41. In order to be one of the twelve, one had to have accompanied Jesus all the time that He went in and out among His disciples (i.e. from the baptism of John or thereabouts). This was important if the Apostle was to be qualified to be an eye and ear witness of Christ's resurrection and all that He did.

(2) Read Luke 6:12-13; Acts 1:23-26. There had to be a direct appointment by Jesus Christ if one was to be recognized as a capital "A" Apostle. This was underscored in the selection of Matthias where the final decision was left to the Lord in the drawing of the lots.

(3) Read Acts 1:1-8. A third qualification of a capital "A" Apostle was the reception of a supernatural endowment of the Holy Spirit, which was given for two closely-related purposes:

(a) To supernaturally enable them to be witnesses of Christ so that they inerrantly spoke the Word of God by divine inspiration along with individuals closely connected with them (like Mark and Luke) Read Matt. 10:5a; 18-20; Jn. 16:12-15. (Also cp. Jn. 14:25-26.)

(b) To enable them to back up their testimony with supernatural signs and wonders. Read Mt. 10:1; II Cor.. 12:11-12. These signs and wonders were connected with the Apostles because they supported their divinely inspired witness, even as new periods of divine revelation had been generally accompanied by such miraculous signs in past redemptive history (Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Daniel, etc.).

But upon what basis do I say that the church ceased to have such living Apostles at this time? Consider with me two types of evidence:

B). The biblical evidence for the cessation of the Apostolate. Here I would direct your attention to four lines of argument, of which the first is most essential:

1. The Scriptures nowhere indicate explicitly that the living Apostolate would continue. There is no record of the Apostles appointing personal successors for themselves. Nor did they leave to the church the new qualifications which would have been needed for the proper recognition of such future Apostles. When Paul was near death as he wrote II Timothy, he evidently viewed Timothy to be his personal successor as much as anyone. Yet he did not call him an Apostle, and evidently did not view him as being in the future an Apostolic human author of divine revelation. Rather Paul charged Timothy to "retain the standard of sound words" which he had heard from the Apostle Paul, to guard "the treasure which" had "been entrusted to" him, and to "entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" "the things which" Timothy had "heard from" Paul "in the presence of many witnesses" (II Tim. 1:13-14; 2:2).

If someone would argue that the Lord Jesus did appoint a successor to Judas Iscariot in Acts 1, I would respond in two ways:

First, such a replacement was necessary at this point in redemptive history because Judas wickedly removed himself from the Apostolate before the Apostles were really able to begin their major function as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. However, following the heralding of their initial testimony and its inscripturation in our New Testaments, there was no such remaining need for the labors of a living Apostolate to continue. Possible evidence of this fact is that there is no specific indication that a replacement was chosen by Christ for James the brother of John and one of the Twelve, after he was martyred later on as recorded in Acts 12:1-2.

Furthermore, just before Pentecost, there were still individuals available who could possibly meet the three qualifications given in the New Testament for Apostles (which we have studied just outlined), which brings us to a second biblical argument for the cessation of the Apostolate:

2. The living Apostolate was historically unique and unrepeatable because of its biblical qualifications. Since the First Century A.D., there has been no one who has been able to legitimately qualify as a personal witness of the resurrected Christ who was personally called by Christ to be His Apostle.

If someone points out that Paul saw Christ and was called by Him after Christ's ascension, and asks why this cannot happen today, I would respond that this appearance of Christ to Paul still took place close to the time of Christ's resurrection (about 34 A.D.), and during the historical lifetimes of the other Apostles so that they were able to recognize him as a legitimate Apostle (Gal. 2:6-9). However such an Apostolic recognition is not possible today. Furthermore, Paul regarded Christ's appearance to him to be His last appearance, and as one which was clearly abnormal. We have already read I Cor. 15:8 where Paul declared ì. . . and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He (Christ) appeared to me also.î

Therefore, the Apostolate was historically unique and unrepeatable because of its biblical qualifications, for these qualifications were never replaced or changed in the Scriptures.

But thirdly:

3. The living Apostolate was historically unique and unrepeatable because of its foundational place in the building of the church. Read Eph. 2:19-22 (cp. Mt. 16:17-18; Rev. 21:14). The Apostles along with the New Testament prophets were the foundation of the church and not its superstructure. Now let me ask you, What part of a building is built first? It is the foundation. And once the foundation has been laid and the building is being built upon it, you do not keep on pouring the foundation do you? In the same way, neither should we expect to find living Apostles in the church on earth after the initial foundational period of the church. (Not even Christ the cornerstone of the church has had a bodily presence with His church on earth since He returned to heaven in the First Century A.D., although He is present with her through His Spirit.)

Finally:

4. The living Apostolate evidently has ceased to be present in the church because some of the later New Testament epistles appear to be preparing the church for a time when there would be no Apostolate giving new revelation. Read I Tim. 6:20; II Pet. 1:12-15; Jude 3 (cp. II Thess. 2:15; 3:6; II Tim. 1:13-14; 2:2).

These then are some lines of biblical evidence for the cessation of the Apostolate. But there is another line of evidence which, although not the basis of our conclusion, still supports it:

C). The historical evidence for the cessation of the Apostolate. Although church history records are far from complete, and often are inaccurate, it is interesting that there are no legitimate successors to the Apostles (i.e., those who have met the qualifications of capital "A" Apostles) to be found in those records.

There have been at least two somewhat serious pretenders:

1. The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church

2. The supposed "apostles" of the Mormon Church

How should we respond to the claims of each?

1. The Pope was not officially declared to have infallibility for "ex cathedra" declarations until 1870. When such infallibility was finally attributed to the Pope, it was attributed to one who was the head of a clearly apostate Roman Catholic Church. And it was a church council of that apostate Roman Catholic Church which declared the Papal infallibility.

2. The supposed apostolate of the Mormon Church did not even begin until the 1800's when it was supposedly re-established, and it rules over a cult which denies the true and full deity of Jesus Christ.

So both pretenders are a little late in history, and are associated with grave error which contradicts the Scriptures, instead of being infallible mouthpieces of God.

In conclusion, for the reasons which we have reviewed, we are accurate in declaring that the church ceased to possess living capital "A" Apostles around 100 A.D.

 


Edited by GospelPedlar from: Church History, by Pastor Dave Merck, Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI.